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Asia Minute: Train Trouble in Hong Kong

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A multi-billion dollar rail project is running into unexpected problems, and may require some extra money. This is not a story about the Honolulu rail project — it’s about an enterprise that’s underway thousands of miles from Hawai‘i. 

Hong Kong’s latest rail project has stumbled into some complications. The last part of a high-speed railway going to southern China is due to open in a couple of months.

The 11-billion dollar link is the last piece of a system that already connects Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Now it will extend all the way to Hong Kong – cutting travel time to Guangzhou from about two hours to less than 50 minutes.

The train line will end in a spectacular terminal on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong harbor — complete with more than 4,000 glass panels.

Trouble is, some of those glass panels leak when it rains.

This week, the operations director of Hong Kong’s MTR, the Mass Transit Railway, said he’s noticed “seepage” during recent storms. That could be a major problem, because typhoons and other heavy rain storms are seasonal features of Hong Kong’s weather.

It’s not the first challenge for the rail link — there have been other water leaks, track issues, and new train wheels that are wearing out faster than expected.

Credit Fontaimeinaisming / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

One legislator called the latest leak problem “ridiculous” and said the MTR is “an international laughing stock” — asking “Does the MTR plan to use buckets to catch water at the terminus?”

The MTR says the rail link should open on time in September.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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